Summer’s longer days mean more time to enjoy warm weather and sunshine, but they also mean higher energy bills. There is a bright side, however: by implementing an energy management program within your community, you can help keep costs down without sacrificing comfort.
A fair warning, though: you may face challenges. Although the benefits of energy management are clear – and if you ask any resident if they’d like to lower their bill, the answer will undoubtedly be “yes” – getting there often means overcoming a few challenges first.
“When it comes to energy conservation in your community, it’s important to look at things rationally and measured,” says Chris Normandeau, Director, FS Energy. “There are no magic beans, but there is plenty of snake oil. That being said, there are huge opportunities to save in most properties. Working with experienced and knowledgeable professionals can help you to determine what to do first, and how to make it happen.”
The good news? Implementing an energy efficiency program can
be done. Follow these steps and you’ll successfully navigate the challenges – and find yourself basking in the warm glow of lower energy costs all summer long.
How to save on summer energy costs:
1. Start with education on saving energy at home.
There are some things you can do to lower energy costs, like increasing the temperature set on thermostats. Did you know you can save 1-3% on your energy bill for every degree the thermostat is set above 72 degrees? By changing A/C filters on a regular basis, you will reduce the energy use from anywhere between 5% and 15%. Replacing your A/C filters regularly will also keep your air clean and help to minimize visits from the A/C repair man. Those things are pretty easy, but some of the big energy-saving producers will require capital outlay, such as replacing old A/C units with more energy-efficient ones (for a 20%-50% energy savings) and having the A/C coils cleaned by a professional. In the face of your community’s other capital demands (and day-to-day expenditures), allocating funds for energy savings is sometimes a tough sell. Before you propose spending a dime, make sure your community is well educated on the benefits of energy efficiency, and how those efficiencies can occur.
2. Conduct an energy audit.
A full energy audit will show how energy is being used in your community – and reveal ways it can be saved. You can have an audit performed by a third-party contractor, or some utilities may provide the service. There can be a fee associated with the audit, but the savings your community will enjoy after following the audit’s recommendations will more than offset this initial cost.
3. Look to similar communities implementing energy conservation programs.
Cities such as Chicago, Seattle, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Boston, Atlanta, Denver, New York and Washington, D.C., have all instituted ordinances that require communities to “benchmark” their energy use. These ordinances mandate communities to track and report what they spend on electricity, gas and water. Data is collected both before and after efficiency measures are implemented, so the energy savings are clear. To help inspire efficiency action with your board, find a community similar to yours in one of these benchmarking cities. Need help? A good property management company will be able to help you identify a good candidate and reach out to them.
4. Follow (and find) the money.
Financing the capital improvements necessary for full efficiency may not be as difficult as some board members think. Talk to your local utility provider about incentives that it might offer. Nonprofit and government programs are available as well. Low-cost loans are another option and even some vendors may have ‘shared savings’ programs. No matter which financing route you choose, be sure to communicate that any initial expense will be recouped through savings over time.
5. Remember the perks.
If you’re finding opposition in the form of cost-conscious board members, keep in mind that they are fulfilling their fiduciary duties. That’s good news – it means you have responsible board members. Appeal to their sense of good stewardship by communicating that energy savings means funds can be allocated elsewhere. These energy savings could be placed in a reserve fund, or used to enhance the lifestyle of residents by funding much-needed projects. The strategy here is to convey that energy efficiency is more than an initial cost... it’s a way to save significantly over time.
6. Create your energy savings plan.
With the backing of your board, leverage your energy audit toward creating an efficiency plan. The best property management firms have entire divisions devoted to this effort, comprising experts who know how to develop step-by-step strategies that will maximize your savings. This will include ongoing efficiency metrics so you can show the board how the community continues to save.
Don’t sweat big energy bills this summer. Start educating your board and community on the benefits (and feasibility) of conserving energy now and you’ll be cooling down those costs before you know it.